Monday, July 20, 2009

Vintage Beach Photos - Coast-To-Coast

This weeks offerings come from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and include three panoramic photographs. Two are from Seal Beach, California and the other is from Miami Beach, Florida. The original sizes are 7-inches by a whopping 46-inches! In an effort to make these more visible, I cropped out the center of each one to make them more appealing for the purposes of this post and give you an idea of what you will see if you chose to click on the image and use your scroll bar to see each of these beauties.

Let's start with the two from Seal Beach (and remember you can click on any of the images for a larger view):

"Rough-riding", Seal Beach, California, August 16, 1917

Bath Suit Fashion Parade, Seal Beach, California, July 14, 1918

On the Seal Beach community website, Sandy Zimmerman writes, "The roaring 20’s were really roaring in Seal Beach, California. Their gambling, booze, and beaches acted as a magnet attracting tourists to this little ocean-side village. The famous Joy Zone was set along the pier with the Jewel City Cafe, Derby roller coaster, beaches, and other diversions. At the end of the pier a large synthesizer presented a blazing, flashing light show to set the mood. Sophie Tucker and other celebrities acted as judges at the Big Band dance contests. Tourists rented as many as 1,000 bathing suits a day, and 190,000 people visited Seal Beach each week. What was the reason for Seal Beaches’ popularity? It was the only place where liquor could be served. During these early years, seals or sea lions frequented the people’s yards, beaches, and ocean. Sometimes they even got in the way of bathers. "

Next up is Miami Beach:

The Bathing Suit Parade at Miami Beach, Florida
First Annual Palm Fete, December 7 to 11, 1920

From the 2002 book, Miami Beach in 1920 by Abraham D. Lavender:

"Palm Fete was a week-long celebration. Most of the events took place in Miami, but there was one day of major festivities at Miami Beach. On Friday, December 10, the events were centered around the Miami Beach Baths and the surrounding area. The Miami Daily Metropolis, claiming that Miami was greatly depopulated due to the beach's celebration for the festival, especially for the bathing suit parade, reported that such a crowd had never been seen in Miami Beach. The newspaper said that the most beautiful girls on the east coast were exhibiting the season's latest bathing suits and that every spectator had a good view because of the long parade.

The bathing suit parade was the highlight of the day. The bathing suits were either in the silk suit class or the knit wool suit class, and the contestants were either in the "Stouts, Annette Kellermans, or Flappers" categories. There were no age limits. Pose and poise were also considered. Ralph Kuffner of the Miami Beach wireless station won third prize in the humorous costumes category. Kuffner was the only man in the parade, and he wore a barrel that carried a label saying "Who stole my suit?"

J. Arthur Pancoast, manager of the Miami Beach Baths, announced that he planned to show "The Evolution of the Bathing Suit" in the parade, with women wearing costumes from 1890, 1900, 1910 and 1920. He claimed that the 1920 one-piece bathing suit would cause a riot on any northern beach, but that it was only for parade purposes.

The bathing suit parade renewed the controversy over women's bathing suits, an issue that would not go away. The Miami Herald said that the reformers would have shuddered if they had seen the parade. The Miami Metropolis also wrote in support of the new bathing suits.

The controversy over bathing suits continued on a national level in 1920, with major involvement from the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Nationally, the WCTU advocated the covering of nude statues and opposed ballet because of the pink tights worn by ballerinas. Some allies even supported the covering of nude piano legs. Most attention was given to women's bathing suits in 1920, but there were also some people who were advocating a new "topless" bathing suit for men. In 1920, men's bathing suits usually were one piece and covered the chest. Despite some local and national traditionalists, Miami Beach generally maintained a progressive attitude on bathing suits and related topics. After all, Miami Beach was a playground.

Jumping back to the California Coast is a photo from Venice Beach, one of my beach haunts for most of my life. Venice Beach today is still one of the best places to go for people-watching, you never know what you'll see!

Bathing Beach at Venice, California 1917.

What were all these men doing wearing suits to the beach? Crazy!

Finally, I wanted to include the following poster from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, July 1899, so that we could get a better idea of what men were wearing to the beach. This guy looks kind of hunky, don't you think? Much better than a business suit, but still before men went bare-chested.

So there you have it, California and Florida beaches in the early 20th century. I have to say after reading about all the partying going on in those days, other than the change in attire, beachgoers then just might have been a little more wild in the days of my ancestors than they are now!

Note: To those who may have been looking for yesterday's seashell photo, I apologize, but circumstances beyond my control preventing me from posting. The competition/giveaway will continue next Sunday. Thanks for your understanding.

13 Thoughtful Comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you just imagine having a "wool knit suit?!" Oh me oh my! In the middle of July too!? Eww, just the thought of it makes me feel uncomfortable.

I mentioned the hut today in my blog! Check it out sista!

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Love the Post. Oh my gosh, can you imagine how hot it really must have been for ladies in these suits? They would roll over if they saw the little skimpy things they were today. I really like the Harpers July. How cute is that? Does he live on your beach? Stop by and say hi today, I am having a manic Monday. Country Hugs, Sherry

Shellbelle said...

Thanks for link to The Hut Meg! Love the new background! And yes, tiki huts are made mostly from bamboo, which is a highly renewable source of wood. So, we are green at the hut. Cutting boards, flooring, paneling and even clothing are made of bamboo.

Both of you had me laughing today with your posts. Meg, the little girl is adorable. Kids say the funniest things! Sherry your manic Monday was MANIC! I want that ginormous Starbucks right now!

Love ya both, thanks for stopping by.

Maya said...

We certainly shed all the clothes! It's hard to imagine all the contraversy over how one should be dressed at the beach. I used to vacation in South France..., and there you go topless too!

Fifi Flowers said...

All dressed up at the beach... boy have times changed! FAB photos!

Martha said...

How cool! I have to dig into old stuff and see if I have any vintage beach photos to share!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I love those vintage photos! My how time have changed ;)

Sierra said...

Loving all of the vintage photos of the beach and thanks for the history. The times sure have changed!

Anonymous said...

My two favorites - Miami/South Beach and Venice. You're so right, the two greatest places to people watch. I wonder if the guy with the electric guitar on rollerblades is still know the one with the turban...

Miami makes me think of mojito (Hemingway's favorite), acoustic guitar music, a cool breeze, hot men wearing those terrific white Cuban shirts, whitest sand, azure blue ocean, beautiful people as far as the eyes can oggle...

Sahildeki Ev said...

I love your old pics. They are so fun to look at..

Shellbelle said...

Oh Maya, I've heard about those beaches in France. They really went all out (literally) with the demise of bathing machines. AND they had a lot more of them than we did here in America. You're right the controversy over what they could wear is hard to imagine. When I read that some even wanted to cover the bare legs of a piano I couldn't believe it, a piano leg? Wild.

Martha, I hope you will share vintage photos — they are such fun!

Rainbow, you're talking about Harry Perry and he is a legend in Venice. I know he was performing around L.A. even before Venice became so popular for street musicians. Years and years ago, in the days before rollerblades, Harry was on roller skates. I did a photo shoot once that focused on the skates themselves and I know Harry had to have been in several of the shots. I wonder what he is up to these days. I see him pop up on TV or in a movie now and again, usually playing himself. Interesting fellow.

Your description of Miami has me ready to jump in the car and head to the east coast. I've never been to South Beach, but I think I need to add it to my list of beaches I've visited.

Everyone else who dropped by today, I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. This is my favorite day to post and I hope you'll drop by again to see what's in store next Monday.

Cristin // Simplified Bee said...

What a great post and darling blog!


Rhonda said...

Hey Rhonda,
Thanks for visiting! your blog has me counting down my days until our hawaiian family vacation in August! Can't wait! Lovin the beach, I'm a San Diego girl...
thanks for the wonderful photos!

Fondly, another Rhonda in CA

I love the beach and everything that goes with it! I love the waves lapping at my feet. I love the feel of the sand between my toes. I love the roar of the Pacific and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Let's talk about beaches around the world, bonfires, building sandcastles, swaying palm trees, flamingos, clambakes, sunrises and sunsets. If it's tropical, it fits this blog!


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